web analytics
October 31, 2014 / 7 Heshvan, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

The Legacy of the Leo Frank Travesty

The trial was a shock to American Jews, as was Frank's lynching two years later.

Leo Frank

Leo Frank

Last month – August 25, to be precise – marked the 100th anniversary of conviction of Leo Frank in Atlanta.

The Leo Frank case was not the impetus for the founding of the Anti-Defamation League. While the organization was founded the same year as the arrest and trial of Frank for the murder of one of his factory workers, a 13-year-old girl named Mary Phagan, the idea for ADL, conceived by Sigmund Livingston, a Chicago attorney, preceded the case.

Rather than being the catalyst for the organization, the trial served as a confirmation of the wisdom of Livingston that American Jews needed an institution to combat anti-Semitism.

America was a much different place in 1913. Compared to Europe, Jews here lived far more secure and stable lives, but stereotypes and name-calling were still common.

Still, the trial was a shock to American Jews, as was Frank’s lynching two years later. Looking back, we can see this great tragedy as representing the two sides of America and the Jews that still exist today, but in a very different balance and form.

The lynching of Leo Frank

The lynching of Leo Frank

The Frank affair demonstrated that America was not immune to the stereotypes and conspiracy theories about Jews that had characterized European life for centuries. The blood libel charge was rare in America but a related theme, of a Jewish predator attacking a young Christian female, surfaced in the Frank trial.

For American Jews, the Frank affair was seen as a low point in Jewish life in America. The truth is, however, that the most difficult years came later, particularly in the 1930s when anti-Semitic hate groups proliferated and when quotas in universities and other institutions abounded.

If there were doubts about the need for an ADL, that evaporated among significant parts of the community after Frank’s lynching.

Clearly, America has come a long way in the past 100 years. A Leo Frank incident is unthinkable today. Yet the Frank affair still resonates.

Anti-Semitism in the extreme, a completely biased trial and the lynching, may largely be things of the past. But the stereotypes that underlay that extremism are still alive. ADL surveys show that 15 percent of Americans still have anti-Semitic attitudes.

One hundred years later, we are saddened by the memory that it could have happened here, pleased America has come so far, and recommitted to addressing those still living biases, some of which allowed the travesty that was the Leo Frank affair.

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

5 Responses to “The Legacy of the Leo Frank Travesty”

  1. Cody Flecker says:

    Leo Frank for all practical purposes might have been guilty and paid the price for his guilt. he issue is not that he was a Jew or not, but whether he was fooling around

  2. Yechiel Baum says:

    Lynching of jews in the USA is similar to the lynching of Jews in Europe and Arabia. The population of the USA is made up of Europeans and Arabs.
    Ever hear of a Native American Indian doing such a errondous act to a Jew?

  3. Irene Solnik says:

    America was a much different place in 1913. Compared to Europe, Jews here lived far more secure and stable lives, but stereotypes and name-calling were still common.

    stereotypes and name calling exist today. Don't fool yourselves.

  4. Irene Solnik says:

    America was a much different place in 1913. Compared to Europe, Jews here lived far more secure and stable lives, but stereotypes and name-calling were still common.

    stereotypes and name calling exist today. Don't fool yourselves.

  5. Irene Solnik says:

    the man was innocent and that has been proven. Lynching however was not the punishment.

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Yehudah Glick on the Temple Mount.
Yehuda Glick’s Condition Stabilizing, “He Was Very Lucky” (1:00 PM)
Latest Indepth Stories
Which glass has the poison?

The White House wanted to defame Netanyahu, undermine his reputation, impugn him & his policies

Adolf Hitler and the representative of the Palestinian Arabs, the Mufti of Jerusalem, Amin al-Husseini, December, 1941.

Palestinian anti-Semitism in 2014 is more extreme and mainstream than German A/S in the 1930s.

Sheldon Silver

Woven deeply through it all is the Jewish obligation to fight injustice.

Cravatts-Richard--new

Only in the inverted world of academia would Jewish professors denounce the AMCHA Initiative report.

Many poskim were and are adamant about the responsibility of every individual to vote.

Individuals who may have been abused are the “clients” in need and receiving care and protection.

An accomplished Torah scholar and ardent adherent of Bobov chassidus, he was renowned for his self-effacing dedication and skills as an international lawyer and law professor

The fact that the United States government after World War II sought to take advantage of the expertise of German scientists, even those known to have contributed to the Nazi war effort, is well known and largely accepted as having been necessary for America’s national defense. (Wernher von Braun is perhaps the most famous and […]

The New York State comptroller manages the state’s $180.7 billion pension fund, audits the spending practices of all state agencies and local governments, oversees the New York State and Local Retirement System, reviews the New York State and City budgets, and approves billions in State contracts and spending.

Rabinovich is the author of several popular books on Israel’s wars, including The Battle for Jerusalem, The Yom Kippur War, and The Boats of Cherbourg.

To say he was beloved because of the way he loved his students does not sufficiently capture the reality.

The birth I speak about is to give birth to ourselves, to our full potential.

The extreme hypocrisy, contempt & vulgarity of the attacks indicate more than a policy disagreement

More Articles from Abraham H. Foxman
Nelson Mandela at Yad Vashem

I first met Mandela in Geneva in 1990 as part of a delegation of American Jewish leaders.

Leo Frank

The trial was a shock to American Jews, as was Frank’s lynching two years later.

Worried about a nuclear Iran? Do you think such a development would not only threaten Israel’s existence but would intimidate the Arab countries of the Gulf, put the radical Islamist regime in position to threaten the West, and lead to unmanageable nuclear proliferation? Have no fear! Kenneth N. Waltz, the highly respected professor of international relations at Columbia University, argues in a recent article of Foreign Affairs magazine that “Iran Should Get the Bomb.”

There was a time when no one living in Israel needed a reminder of what was at stake when the Jewish state was created in 1948 in the aftermath of World War II and the Nazi Holocaust.

The threat of the infiltration of Sharia, or Islamic law, into the American court system is one of the more pernicious conspiracy theories to gain traction in our country in recent years.

On the evening of December 11, 1995, businessman Aaron Feuerstein was with family and friends at a restaurant in Boston. It was his seventieth birthday, and a group of well-wishers had gathered to throw him a surprise party.

So there it was, “perfect proof” of what John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt were saying about the Israeli lobby: the pressure mounted and Charles Freeman, the designated chairman of the National Intelligence Council, decided to withdraw his name from consideration.

Coming just weeks after the explosion of global anti-Semitism that followed Israel’s military action in Gaza, the timing couldn’t have been better for the London Conference on Combating Anti-Semitism, held Feb. 16 and 17.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/the-legacy-of-the-leo-frank-travesty/2013/09/18/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: